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Broken Slippers

July 27, 2010

Last month I, along with a couple of friends, had gone to Girnar, also known as Girnar Hill. Girnar is a beautiful collection of mountains near Junagarh in Gujarat. We reached there early in the morning and decided to climb the tallest of the mountains there, the highest peak in Gujarat (945 meters). The mountain is a pilgrimage for both Hindus and Jains and has a large collection of temples. There are about 10,000 steps one has to climb from the start to the last temple at the highest peak.

We had some breakfast (some biscuits and coffee) and started climbing at around 7AM. 2000 steps and I was completely drained out. I decided to quit, found a big stone under a shade and slept. My friends continued to climb. After about 40 minutes I started breathing again. There was a small shop right there selling Parle ji biscuits and lemonade. I bought both, reenergized myself and started climbing. That day I realized that Parle ji biscuits do have good quantity of glucose in them.

With renewed energy I started climbing, running up hill. After sometime I took my floaters off and tied them to my bag. These were 1800 bucks worth hush puppies floaters I had bought in my final year at IIT. I tied them safely and started climbing. Half way through I caught up with my friends. They were enjoying the scenic beauty of the temples. 6000 steps and it had started to get hot. The sun was right on our head. The rocks were also heating up, and so we decided to wear our shoes. I too took my bag off my shoulders to find that only one floater was hanging there. The other had fallen off somewhere on the way. 1800 bucks loss! People told me that I will find it on my way back. 

Except for the fact that I was barefoot, rest of climb was awesome. We were nearly on the top of the hill with trees, strong cold wind all around. We started climbing down at four and it took us less than four hours to get back to the plains. There was no floater to be found anywhere and I threw the one I had. I was barefoot and there were no footwear shops anywhere close to the Dharamshala we were staying in.

At 9 we decided to go get some dinner. Luckily I found a pair of broken bathroom slippers outside dharamshala. With help of some rope I tied the broken ends. Result was a pair of slippers which I could wear and walk on the roads. The condition of the slipper was such that even a poor man would think twice before wearing them. But I was unusually happy, definitely more than the time when I had bought the costly floaters. I was content.

Next morning we had to catch a train to Somnath. I wore my pyjamas, t-shirt, took my bag and then happily put on the slippers. In the train, for the very first time I slept without looking down at the slippers even once. For last 5-6 years, I had worn only woodlands and liberties. Most of the floaters were worth more than 1000 bucks. While travelling in train there was not a single night when I had slept without worrying about my floaters. But not that day! That day I very well knew that no one would even touch the slippers lying down. There was a peace of mind that I experienced for whole 2 days. I went to Somnath and then back to Ahmedabad with the slippers on. While in train I thought I would discard the broken slippers and wear my bathroom slippers.

However that is not what happened. The next day I went straight to Woodlands and bought myself a pair of floaters again worth 2000 bucks!!!

Why did I do that? When my bathroom slippers were giving the same comfort, plus the peace of mind, why exactly did I so impulsively go and buy the floaters? Yesterday I sat down and tried to list down the answer to the ‘Why’ ques and here is what came up –

  • What would others think? They will think I do not have money to buy something worthwhile and hence am wearing the slippers.
  • Those who do not know that I am from IIT would get a feel that I am just a correspondence wala BA BCom guy who cannot get good enough job to buy ‘decent’ floaters.
  • Those who know I am from IIT, will think that I have some kind of air around me and am a nut case who does not know how to take advantage of the status provided to me.
  • I would hardly get any respect if I wear bathroom slippers and go to Malls, restaurants etc. I would be looked down upon.

And when I try to understand this in depth, I realize that I am constantly pushing myself into being poor and deprived (irrespective of what all I own, have and use). My mind has got conditioned and I have become slave of the perceptions, perceptions that others would have of me. And this alone makes me poor independent of how much I am making per month.

The worst part is that we (middle class, rich class) thrust the same perceptions on those living in villages, on those doing farming, on those who were content with what they had. We know that they are happier than us. We know that they laugh more heartedly than any of us. They live peacefully with mother earth without exploiting it for their personal needs and luxuries. They are not bound by materialistic and consumeristic attitude. They are not slaves but now because of people like us have started to feel poor and deprived.

Well then adios to Woodlands, I don’t really need you. I have my broken slippers and am no longer poor but happy and peaceful. I think that is what Gandhi meant when he said that richness can never bring happiness and the poor are bound to be happier.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. sr! permalink
    July 27, 2010 21:25

    Part 1:
    Can I ask you one even more fundamental question: Why are you scared of losing those 1800 buck slippers?

    My line of thinking is this: if you are going for those branded ones for the reason of being a conformist to society, that is one, but going by what you said, those slippers have served you for the last two years. If you are a fan of Bata, e.g., you would have spent around the same amount of money on them (or marginally lesser) as their life is normally shorter (atleast in my case). Also, I dont agree with the claim that those hawai chappals are equally comfortable.

    But no matter what the reason for going with the costlier slippers be, even if it is something as simple as being a conformist with social norms, or being high headed about your status, the reason for going with them should not result in you losing yourself.

    Let me put it this way. You may own a 2000Rs slipper, and you may care enough for it to hide it under the seat on a train, but are you so scared as to get up sometimes to see if they are still there? If you are not, you are still poor 🙂

    Can you just give off your beautiful, comfortable, high class 2000Rs slipper to someone for some totally arbit reason? If yes, you are still poor…

    So it is not poverty that keeps you happy, it is the dissociation that you have from your materialistic world that does. When it comes to people in villages, or people who are ‘poor’ they don’t really have so many things they can be possessive about. But if they do, e.g. number of cows one owns, they are bound to be unhappy. And that dissociation happens to almost everybody, atleast in the later stages of their lives when they are nearing their death bed, or they are on it, when they realize one very simple thing – that they are, well, naked!

    Part 2:
    Why do you wear a 2000Rs sandal to office? Show off? Maybe. To blend in with your colleagues? Maybe. But one day you are hurt and you are not able to wear your costly sandals. Are you able to walk inside your office barefoot without feeling ashamed of it? If yes, you are losing yourself.

    There is nothing wrong with being a conformist, but that should happen out of desire to wear what you want to wear and out of consideration for other’s comfort. But if your decisions are based on what others will think of you, or based on fear of being looked down upon, you have lost yourself.

    So wear whatever you want to wear, hawai chappals, 2000Rs sandal, or nothing at all, and let your decision be based on anything, absolutely anything, your comfort and consideration for others, or consideration of office norms/etiquettes, because no matter what the reasons are, the decision is still yours. However if you decisions are based on fear, they are not yours anymore.

    Like

    • sr! permalink
      July 27, 2010 21:29

      Typo: Are you able to walk inside your office barefoot without feeling ashamed of it? If yes, you are losing yourself. > If no, you are losing yourself.

      Like

  2. July 28, 2010 18:45

    Completely agree with your comment 🙂

    To clarify i am not always afraid, but extrapolated the point to make my point… Here I think it should be other way round for the 2 statements you have made – >

    1. Let me put it this way. You may own a 2000Rs slipper, and you may care enough for it to hide it under the seat on a train, but are you so scared as to get up sometimes to see if they are still there? If you are not, you are still poor

    (I think if I am then I am still poor)

    2. Can you just give off your beautiful, comfortable, high class 2000Rs slipper to someone for some totally arbit reason? If yes, you are still poor…

    (I think if no, then I am still poor)

    Like

    • Srikanth S permalink
      July 28, 2010 22:23

      there are two meanings of being poor: one reflected in:
      And when I try to understand this in depth, I realize that I am constantly pushing myself into being poor and deprived

      and the other in:
      I think that is what Gandhi meant when he said that richness can never bring happiness and the poor are bound to be happier

      When i say poor above, i mean the latter one. What i am trying to do is to strike a contrast between being poor in terms of money and being poor in terms of your association with costly stuff. So even if you own a costly slipper, you are still poor (in the second sense) as long as it doesn’t deprive you of your sleep

      Like

  3. Achal Kothari permalink
    August 5, 2010 18:59

    I couldn’t help but notice the use of the word Perception and I enjoyed it, the word is catching up 😉 Would appreciate more when you use the verb, ‘percepting’ in your next post

    And there is something in between the torn bathroom slippers and the Rs 2000 woodlands which I buy. They cost me around 200-300 and though I can not compare them to woodlands but they dont make me uncomfortable either and make me sleep peacefully in the train 🙂 And when I see others wearing woodlands or showing off their woodlands I dont feel ashamed of them, as I see them as a utility, to protect my feet and thats it, both are for the same purpose. And now I am not going to buy woodlands after knowing that you get up in the night to check your shoes
    And yes the tendency is to shop for the higher priced item due to attractiveness but it depends on you where you draw the line.

    And to quote one of my friends, ” Modesty is such a cliche these days” Obviously a comment like this pinches me at my soul but reading your experience has made me feel better

    Like

    • August 15, 2010 13:31

      This quote from your friends reminds me of all the socialites who start thr own NGOs, wear khadi, cotton kurtas along with pearl jewellery or tag heuer watches… 🙂 Its not only cliche, its being used as a style statement today

      Like

  4. Achal Kothari permalink
    August 5, 2010 19:00

    I couldn’t help but notice the use of the word Perception and I enjoyed it, the word is catching up 😉 Would appreciate more when you use the verb, ‘percepting’ in your next post

    And there is something in between the torn bathroom slippers and the Rs 2000 woodlands which I buy. They cost me around 200-300 and though I can not compare them to woodlands but they dont make me uncomfortable either and make me sleep peacefully in the train 🙂 And when I see others wearing woodlands or showing off their woodlands I dont feel ashamed of them, as I see them as a utility, to protect my feet and thats it, both are for the same purpose. And now even if I earn a lot, am not going to buy woodlands after knowing that you get up in the night to check your shoes
    And yes the tendency is to shop for the higher priced item due to attractiveness but it depends on you where you draw the line.

    And to quote one of my friends, ” Modesty is such a cliche these days” Obviously a comment like this pinches me at my soul but reading your experience has made me feel better

    Like

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